Earlier this week, Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com wrote that a source had told him Thibodeau had lost his locker room. Then another source said it was hooey:
First I heard from a source close to the Bulls that Tom Thibodeau had lost his locker room, his football coach mentality wearing thin with key members of a roster who it is fair to say have underperformed. It’s not like Thibs is Pete Carroll, and it’s not like the Bulls have anything to be overtly proud of with their 27-15 record that includes a 12-10 mark at home.
But then I went checking around, speaking with another source who is plugged into all things regarding he Bulls, and was told that nothing could be further from the truth. Didn’t Thibs guide the Bulls to winning records and playoff appearances the past two seasons despite being without Derrick Rose? Didn’t they just win 10 of 11? Does that count for nothing?
The latter source seems more accurate, but excellent beat reporter K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (subscribers only) echoed those first sentiments in a piece penned the very next day, one that talked about Thibs giving the team Tuesday off when they would normally be busting butt in practice — especially after a listless showing against the Cavs on the Monday night before.
Most players typically come to the Advocate Center on their own on off days anyway to shoot, receive treatment or watch film with coaches. But if Thibodeau had followed through with his late-night Monday plan to practice on Tuesday, it would’ve done little to silence the whispers that his pedal-to-the-floor-at-all-times approach is wearing thin.
Thibodeau’s response to most any issue is to work harder.
But a strained dynamic has been in place since the start of training camp. Mindful of Thibodeau’s style, and with Rose and Joakim Noah returning from knee surgeries, management and the medical staff placed minutes restrictions in games and occasional practice limitations on players.
This philosophical clash has done nothing to diminish the long-standing tension between Thibodeau and management. It doesn’t affect daily communication — the parties spoke amicably Tuesday — but it does hover over the organization, raising widespread speculation on Thibodeau’s long-term status with two seasons remaining on his contract.
Thibodeau’s recent who’s-in-who’s-out-of-the-circle metaphor is code for demanding buy-in. Whether players feel emboldened by the big-picture approach or are reacting to the fifth season of the same message, it’s clear Thibodeau has experienced more pushback this season. He has alluded to poor practice habits and lack of cohesive practice time often.
Johnson doesn’t overtly say Thibodeau’s drill sergeant mentality is wearing thin, but combined with Sheridan’s source, it makes it seem like Thibodeau’s job is in a precarious place; speculation continues that he’s no longer able to stimulate effort from players and is unable to alleviate concerns with management he’s working his team too hard to be effective.
Then again, Rose and Popovich said before and after Thursday’s big Bulls win over the Spurs, the very idea is insulting and totally false.